“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
We have a promise to keep – all of us. And we carry the weight of past generations that also failed to make it true. It is a promise that sits as the bedrock of our nation, perhaps the most oft-cited phrase in our Declaration of Independence.
Yet by the time they are only three years old, children living in poverty have heard 30,000,000 fewer words than three-year-olds living in more economically well-off environments. They were not born equal and rarely have the chance to taste equality in their lives.
As far as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, have you ever spent time in neighborhoods where poverty prevails? If you have, it is likely that it has not been at night, because it is often far too dangerous to be outside. In fact, as families share with us, they avoid sitting in rooms in their homes where there are windows. Stray bullets are too common for that.
And if you ask those individuals engaging in violence, many will tell you the same thing – there are no resources and there are no jobs to be found. In the absence of both, they do what it takes to feed themselves and their families. I have heard that on the streets of DC, Chicago, Baltimore, and in cities and towns across our country.
I always think the same thing when I hear this: What are we waiting for? How much clearer do people living in poverty have to make this for us?
Fifty-three years after the War on Poverty was declared, we have normalized poverty in a way that is counter to our humanity. We must hold ourselves and our nation accountable for change. True freedom and true independence continue to elude those in poverty.
Today is Independence Day. Here, we see it as a day to renew our dedication to realizing this country’s founding principles. Can you make our national promise your personal commitment?
Mark Bergel, Ph.D.
Founder and Executive Director, A Wider Circle